The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday signed the NATO accession protocol for Sweden, following the ratification of the relevant bill by the National Assembly on the evening of last Tuesday. Shortly thereafter, the decree was published in the Turkish Official Gazette, and according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the law came into effect. At the same time, according to information, Athens has locked the purchase of F-35s, and the main Greek goal now is to send a letter from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Congress, ensuring that the F-16s that Turkey will acquire will not be used for aggressive purposes.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the development in a post on the X platform (formerly Twitter): “Welcome Türkiye’s approval of the ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession. With this, a key milestone has been reached in Sweden’s path towards NATO membership,” he wrote.

Now what remains is for the protocol to be sent to Washington – as, under the agreements, the U.S. is the custodian of the original accession protocols of all member states from the founding of NATO until today. Now all NATO members, except Hungary, have ratified Sweden’s request for membership in the military alliance, sparked by Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine.

Shortly before President Erdogan penned the protocol, U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Jeffry Flake appeared particularly optimistic about the approval of the controversial agreement for the F-16s, which includes the purchase of 40 new fighters and the modernization of 79, totaling $20 billion. He suggested that a vote in Congress may not be necessary once it receives the official request from the State Department. “President Biden has sent a letter to Congress, informing them that he intends to submit the official request. Then, unless Congress objects, the sale proceeds. A vote in Congress is unlikely; it is not necessary. That only happens when there is disagreement,” he stated.

What is certain is that the developments of the past few days and statements from Flake and other officials from both countries confirm the give-and-take between Washington and Ankara, within which, for a year and a half or more, one played the “card” of the F-16s, and the other that of the approval or not of NATO’s enlargement with Sweden. However, the apparent finalization of the F-16 agreement does not mean that all points of friction have been eliminated. And how could they be, especially when there is the issue of Turkey’s close relations with Russia, Erdogan’s conflict with Israel and Netanyahu, and his support for Hamas, as well as the issue of the Kurds in Syria, who are allies of the Americans.

The Thorn of Hungary

It is worth noting, however, that formally at least, we have not reached the “end of the road” in the matter of Sweden’s accession to NATO. This is because the “thorn” of Hungary still exists, the only one of the 31 member states of the Alliance that has not approved the protocol. Although its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, declares that he strongly supports the enlargement and with the latest Scandinavian country, the President of the Parliament – in which his party, Fidesz, has a majority – stated that there is “no particular urgency,” nor is there an “emergency” to accelerate the process. Analysts also note that Budapest may seek some concessions. Swedish Prime Minister Olof Kristersson proposed in a letter to Orban to meet bilaterally next week in Brussels, on the sidelines of the EU summit.